Can Standardized Test Data be Formative?
Very often we refer to state standardized testing data as summative. It is used to determine if a student, and an institution, meet AYP. We apply the data, much as the somewhat tired analogy goes, as a learning autopsy. We identify problems and areas of health, and perhaps even the cause of learning death, but we say it’s too late at that point for us to use it to change anything for that student. The problem, most people say, is that we don’t receive the results in a timely manner, and thus, can only use it to reflect back upon.
I wonder if we can change that.
Because at the beginning of a given school year, you typically have at least several years of data on each of your students. You have how they performed on the test last year, and the year before, and depending on what grade level you teach, you might even have the data for quite a few years.
What if we approached our standardized testing data this way?
Instead of basing your instructional decisions for this year on what a different group of kids did last year, what if you looked at the students you have at the beginning of the year and used their historical data?
This might shift our perspective from summative to formative.
I often see schools and districts use the performance data from the previous year to make instructional decisions for the next year. For example, students perform poorly on vocabulary one year. So, the teacher or perhaps even entire grade level, makes the determination to focus on vocabulary as a weakness for improvement for the next year. The problem is, what if the class you have this year is actually very strong in vocabulary but really need help with comprehension? Or what if only several students are very strong in vocabulary but really need help with making connections? What if we looked at what each student needs individually based on how they have done over the years?
I wonder how much this would change.
I honestly don’t know how much valuable information can be found and used in a formative capacity in state standardized testing. I’ve a feeling, though, there might be more there than we realize.